Professor's refusal to wear a microphone: ex-student wins case

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Teacher's refusal to wear a microphone: ex-student wins

William Sears holds the FM transmitter he used to better hear his lecturers at Memorial University when he was a student in 2015.

A former student at Memorial University, which challenged a professor's refusal to wear a microphone in class seven years ago, wins a case before the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission.

William Sears, a hard of hearing person, dropped out of a history class in 2015 because Professor Ranee Panjabi told him she couldn't wear an FM transmitter for religious reasons, according to a commission-appointed arbitrator. p>

The University knew or should have known that these two people were likely to have a disagreement on the question of accommodation and it did not do enough to avoid this, explains the arbitrator Brodie Gallant in his decision.

Me Gallant points out that the professor occupied a position of authority and that she prevented the student from having access to the course.< /p>

In the end, Mr. Sears left the classroom in embarrassment and humiliation. It seems clear to me that he was deeply affected by this incident and that he still feels strong emotions stemming from the event today, says Mr. Gallant.

Mr. Gallant awards $10,000 compensation to William Sears.

Memorial University is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. She hopes to have it invalidated and avoid paying this compensation.

The University believes the arbitrator erred in law in analyzing the facts, says spokesman David Sorensen. He adds that the University remains committed to providing accessible programs and services to students with disabilities.

The University finds that the arbitrator did not take his obligation to balance competing rights and acting in good faith.

When William Sears was a student, he regularly visited the Blundon Center, Memorial University's service in charge of accompaniments, according to arbitrator Gallant. He went there before each semester to have the department inform future teachers of the need to wear a microphone.

When he made the move in 2015, a manager at the Blundon center wrote to all of the student's future teachers except Ranee Panjabi because he remembered a similar controversy from 1996.

Another student at this university filed a discrimination complaint in 1996 when Professor Panjabi refused to wear a microphone. Ms. Panjabi has entered into an agreement with the University to exempt her from wearing any such device.

The professor practices a religion that emphasizes personal experience and the individualized, personal search for truth, the arbitrator explains in his decision. According to these religious beliefs, wearing an FM transmitter would significantly upset the spiritual balance that must be maintained.

Two days before the start of classes, the center manager Blundon consulted with an interim director who, according to the arbitrator, had not thought about the agreement reached with the professor and told the manager to carry on as usual.

According to Brodie Gallant, the University thus missed the opportunity for an accommodation.

The arbitrator adds that Professor Panjabi told him that she had not seen the two emails from the University on this subject. So when Mr. Sears walked into the classroom, they were both unaware that they were going to have a disagreement.

Ms. Panjabi refused to carry the microphone and she offered to put it on a nearby table, but Mr. Sears said that was insufficient and he walked out of the room. room.

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A rally at Memorial University in 2015 in support of William Sears, who could then hear his history teacher because she refused to wear a microphone for religious reasons (archives).

It was not possible to interview William Sears nor with Ranee Panjabi, who is retired. Mr. Sears graduated in 2017.

Arbitrator Gallant acknowledges that the University has made changes to avoid this kind of dispute in the future, including a way to students to request accommodations without having to communicate directly with their professors. Unfortunately, these changes came too late for Mr. Sears, he adds.

Based on a report by Garrett Barry, from CBC

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